Back from Radio Silence

It has been a bit since I’ve written an update.  I was mourning the loss of my travel life..and still am. Initially my life now seemed “boring” or “busy” that whatever I was doing didn’t seem to justify a blog post as it wasn’t nearly as cool as backpacking to see the Taj Mahal or taking an 18 hour bus to scuba dive a remote location in Thailand. Real life doesn’t have the same filter as travel life, things don’t taste as good or aren’t as exciting. Luckily I met some great people along the way – and have enjoyed keeping in touch.

Despite missing my travels, I also have had a bit of trouble with Canadian immigration. Oddly enough it is the most difficult country for me to stay in out of any of the 14 countries I’ve been to recently. It seems as if Dan and I would have had an easier time being together, living, and working anywhere in Asia. I find the irony of that unfading.

Anyway, I will blog about my summer travel updates as well as my immigration issues, as I seemed to have turned the corner of optimism and am hopeful things will work out as they should. I still haven’t written on Australia or New Zealand (which was one of my favorite countries). I will re-live my travel life through writing about those great times. For now, I’m back in California for a few weddings and graduation events as my visa in Canada expired. I’m enjoying family, friends, warm sunny weather, and living in the moment.

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To Vancouver!

Before I’m able to blog about my travels to Australia and New Zealand – I’m off to Vancouver. I’m doing a road trip up the coast and am stopping in San Francisco to visit a friend, Eugene to visit my brother, and finally moving to my new home – Vancouver! I’m so excited and looking forward to this new start and fun adventure!

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Bollywood

After our amazing time in Varanasi Dan and I headed on an overnight train to Mumbai. We arrived and luckily were staying at the Westin – courtesy of my father – and were in HEAVEN! We loved the shower after our long train ride and walked around the hotel. We headed to a nearby McDonald’s to try out the different menu in India, as they don’t serve beef. It was funny to try different things. We tried the paneer sandwhich which was actually quite good. After we walked around did some window shopping before calling it a night.

     

The next day we took the local train and headed into the Colaba area. We saw the Gateway of India and the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. We enjoyed a nice relaxed breakfast and did a lot of shopping at the Colaba Street Market. We had a delicious local lunch then headed back to the sanctuary of our posh hotel. After a relaxing afternoon swimming in the pool we wanted to go out for dinner a see a Bollywood movie, but we were stopped at our hotel and told there were riots and many streets and stores were closed – including the movie theaters. Apparently the entire city shut down and was rioting over a taxi driver slapping Pawar, the former Prime Minister of Agriculture over rising food prices. As a result we ordered room service and watched a movie in our hotel…luckily we had a nice place to stay in from all the chaos!

               

The next day things had calmed down significantly. So after a lovely brunch we headed to see our movie. We saw Dam 999 in 3D and despite the movie itself being horrible with bad acting, I enjoyed the dance and song numbers as well as the costumes. We then took a cab home and ventured through the slums of the city. On our way to the airport we also saw the Annawadi slum which boarders the international airport and the luxury hotels, quite a contrast. Yet the largest slum in all of Asia is in Mumbai, and it was shocking to see such living conditions and poverty. It is quite a moving way to leave this magical city, but I was very excited to return to Thailand and some familiarity and comfort!

     

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The Indian Bobblehead

Our first few days in India in New Delhi, Dan and I found an amazingggg restaurant near our hostel/hotel. This was our second time eating there in 3 days and while we were waiting for a table, a nice guy came up to us and offered for us to sit with him at his table. He was a North Carolina native and visiting India for 6 months – WOW! He had fallen in love with the food and language long ago – speaking Hindi sure helped him he admitted. He was a comfort amongst our new chaos in such a different county. I asked him what his favorite thing was about India so far and he said instantly replied “the bobblehead.”

Dan and I looked perplexed but now – weeks later, we understood. The universal Indian custom of slightly bouncing, subtling shaking their head back and forth resembling the motion of a bobblehead. It could mean, Hey there, What’s going on, Yes – of course, I don’t know, What are you saying, Screw You, Hell no, and many other options. We had attempted to mock the motion ourselves and slowly began to master it – a few times getting bobblehead responses – almost as an acceptance of understanding and welcoming us to their culture. It now made me smile myself when I saw it!

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Vivid Varanasi

After our longggg train ride Dan and I were ecstatic to finally be able to walk around and explore this holy and amazing city. We spent all day walking along the fascinating people-watching rich ghats. It was truly amazing to see people bathing, washing clothes, cleaning their animals, and spreading the ashes of their cremating loved ones all in the same holy Ganges river.

          

The city is truly vivid in color and texture. So many things to see and take in. I was fixated with all the people bathing in the holy river and the meticulous ritual it involves. In addition the many women working so hard in the heat and dressed in full saris stone washing clothes. The entire length of the ghats was lined with clothes and sheets of locals.

     

The most captivating ritual of the city was the burning ghats where families come to cremate their loved ones. These bodies burn right in front of your eyes on the banks of the ganges before the ashes are collected and spread in the river. I can’t describe how it feels to see a body burning – I was fascinated by this process. Wood piles are stacked sky high all around the ghats. It is a booming business and an exact science at how much wood it takes to burn a body and every piece of wood is weighed and sold according to the right equation.

     

In addition to all the amazing sights is the food. Dan and I were able to wind our way through confusing alleys to find the famous Blue Lassi shop. This was the most deliciously amazing lassi I ever and probably will ever have! You could choose any flavor you wanted – mine being banana coconut, Dan’s was chocolate. The owner was so sweet and welcoming. The little shop had free wifi and we were able to chat with the fellow customers inside while peering out on the street for people (and cow) watching.

     

We also saw some of the other amazing sights and did some shopping. I was able to buy beautiful scarves here and of course one for myself! Dan and I loved this amazing and culture rich city – we were sad to leave but looking forward to living it up in Bollywood!

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A Pictures is Worth a Thousand Words

The 2012 World Press Photo of the Year was truly stunning. It gets you thinking about photography – a passion of mine – and that sometimes all you need is one photo to feel pain, joy, sadness, or simply tell a story. Below are some of my favorites photographs taken over the years by amazingly talented people – just as a head’s up, I think they are pretty provoking and moving images.

Slum Life

Peaceful Protests

Rhino Poaching Wars

Drug Addicted Sex Worker

A Warm Welcome

Child Brides

Street Drug Life

Gas Mask

Gay Marriage

World Hunger

Natural Disaster

To Kill or Not to Kill

Drug Cartel Wars

Thai Prostitution

Indian Peace

Love in the Face of War

A Face of Torture

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Train Pain

Despite the bitter taste I had in my mouth from the incident with our driver and tipping – I was nervous and excited to take our first train in India. It was overnight to Varanasi.  First off I have never in my life seen such madness anywhere at anytime. It felt as if the entire world was trying to board our train all at once. People were crazily and viciously shoving you out of the way to get inches of space. Luckily we had second class train tickets – which was by no means luxurious but we each had our own bed…or so we thought. Everyone just sits on your bed without asking or anything – any space is up for grabs. Sadly our experience didn’t go so smoothly as hoped. Our train was delayed 8 hours due to fog…chai anyone? We literally spent 24 hours on a crowded, hot, smelly, Indian train – oh the joys!

I have recently found a list I had written on our long train ride of things that had “blown my mind in India…so far” here they are…

  1. the dirtiness
  2. the smells
  3. the cows and animals everywhere
  4. the poop (animal and human) in the streets
  5. horns and traffic
  6. hit and runs – so far seen 3 people hit
  7. lack of hygiene and manners associated – peeing, burping, spitting, nose blowing (without tissues), walking barefoot, no hand washing
  8. no personal space
  9. no toilet paper (normal for all asia)
  10. metal detectors and security pat downs in nice hotels, malls, movie theaters
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